Pia Hirsch and the IASLC

Pia Hirsch and the IASLC

It is hard to imagine the IASLC without Pia Hirsch. The IASLC began as a small group of academic physicians in various disciplines interested in lung cancer and held its first World Conference on Lung CANCER (WCLC) in Hilton Head, SC, USA in 1978 at a time when there were less than 500 attendees and members. There was no office, no employees and everything was run on a volunteer basis. However, the 1st WCLC led to considerable enthusiasm so that the 2nd WCLC which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark was attended by more than 1,000 participants.

This WCLC was led by Dr. Heine Hansen, a medical oncologist at the Finsen Institute in Copenhagen who established a small office at the Institute staffed by employees of the Finsen Institute to run the growing activities of the organization. Pia Hirsch was among those original part-time employees. At the time the WCLC was held only once every three years and the officers and Board met only at these meetings. Despite the small number of employees, the IASLC was able to start a journal, expand its membership, and hold a number of workshops and small meetings in addition to of the small meetings. 

By the time that Heine Hansen stepped down as the first Executive Director/CEO of the IASLC, the membership had expanded considerably and the WCLC conferences were being held every other year with increasing attendance and importance. The number of other meetings was also increasing. The Board of Directors decided to establish a permanent office. Pia was hired as the first employee and subsequently as the first full-time employee. The IASLC continued to grow in membership, in the number of activities including the Staging system revisions through the staging committee, the pathology classification through the pathology committee and through a new journal, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, which the IASLC owns. To accommodate the growth and the multiple changes, the IASLC hired new employees, obtained CME accreditation, leased a permanent and expanding office space, developed online activities, CME activities and expanded meetings, webinars, guidelines, meetings and other activities funded by an increasing budget. 

The growth and success of an organization like the IASLC can, of course, not be attributed to a single individual.  On the other hand, when one individual has been involved in the efforts of the organization for such a long period of sustained growth, it would be a huge oversite not to recognize the role and importance of such an individual. We are forever indebted to her service. The IASLC is eternally grateful. Thank you Pia.

PS. As a small anecdote. The IASLC held a small workshop in Marbella, Spain in the 1990s and the meeting included a dinner for the conference participants. At the conclusion of the dinner when everyone had left, Pia was responsible for paying the bill. The IASLC credit card bounced.  Without hesitation, Pia volunteered to stay until the situation was resolved and to do the dishes to assist.  Fortunately, the credit card situation was resolved but the episode characterizes the devotion that Pia had for the IASLC.  

Pia, we wish you well in your new endeavors. 

- Dr. Paul Bunn